- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

It was a windy day in Washington yesterday.

Lights blinked, trees toppled and the Senate extended its 30-hour debate over President Bush’s stalled judicial nominations.

Though much of America may have tuned out from the debate, Senate Democrats and Republicans strutted for their voter bases all day yesterday and the night before on live television in hopes of stirring up their party faithful and raising money.

At issue is an arcane Senate procedure and endless hair-splitting arguments over how presidents’ judicial nominees are — or are not — confirmed by the Senate. Democrats are accused of raising the constitutional requirement for confirmation from the historical 51-vote majority to the 60-vote supermajority needed to break filibusters.

Republicans, who reported a huge volume of support in phone calls from around the country, deemed the effort so successful that they extended the 30-hour debate another nine hours through this morning.

“It shouldn’t be surprising with 100 people who like to hear themselves talk,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said during a press conference. Earlier, on the floor of the Senate, he observed, “People on both sides are raising money off this event.”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, accused Republicans of staging the 30-hour debate — dubbed variously a “blab-a-thon,” a “yak-fest” and a “blame-a-thon” — to grind up “red meat” for conservatives who have expressed dissatisfaction in the past at party leaders for not being tougher with the 45 filibustering Democrats.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and a fierce opponent of the filibusters, saw red meat as well.

“This is about raising money,” he said of the Democrats. “This is about stirring people up by throwing some red meat. We all understand what is going on and the American people understand what is going on.”

Mr. Cornyn released a fund-raising letter he had obtained from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in which Democrats boasted about the filibusters.

“Senate Democrats have launched an unprecedented effort to protect the rights of all Americans by keeping our courts fair and impartial,” wrote Sen. Jon Corzine, New Jersey Democrat and DSCC chairman. “By mounting filibusters against the Bush administration’s most radical nominees, Senate Democrats have led the effort to save our courts.”

After that pitch, the letter goes on to ask for financial support to help Democrats in the fight.

Mr. Cornyn said the letter proves that even Democrats are calling their blockade “unprecedented,” a point that Democrats vehemently deny.

As the Senate continued its long-winded debate, Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, rose and noted — without the slightest hint of irony — that the high winds around Washington yesterday knocked out electricity in his home, forcing him to get his news from National Public Radio as he drove in to work.

He described Republicans as “reeking of hypocrisy” for attacking Democrats for their filibusters even though Republicans blocked many of President Clinton’s judicial nominees through a variety of parliamentary procedures much earlier in the confirmation process.

“Please tell me where the moral demarcation line is on this,” Mr. Harkin said. “It’s so appropriate that this theater, this hypocritical theater, is happening at nighttime … because under the cover of darkness is where the Republicans like to operate.”

But Republicans were eager to discuss the issue of hypocrisy with Mr. Harkin, who passionately defended the filibusters yesterday. They cited a quote from 1994 in which Mr. Harkin said, “I really believe the filibuster rules are unconstitutional.”


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